Audrey Hepburn’s style will always leave us speechless even though the years go by. Her poise, elegance and dedication to impeccable tailoring will always be remembered, and her enduring friendship with Hubert de Givenchy is something not to let by.
Hepburn’s power is everywhere. She’s so embedded in our understanding of fashion history; her outfits on and off screen are timeless and symbolic of the shifts and changes of the latter half of the 20th century. The publicity photographs for 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s have graced thousands of teenage girls’ bedroom walls, and many of the clothes from her films – including the little black dress she wore as Holly Golightly and the humble polo neck in Funny Face (1957) – are now the definition of iconic.
It’s a style that always remains distinctly hers, though, as evidenced in the documentary Audrey, released in 2020. Made by the award-winning team behind BAFTA-nominated McQueen, it’s no surprise that clothes feature heavily. However, the film also shares a rarely-seen intimate look at Hepburn’s life via archival footage and interviews with friends, family, and colleagues.
The result is an insightful and moving portrayal of the Belgian-born actress who lived through the trauma of German-occupied Holland during the Second World War, with the teenage Hepburn suffering malnourishment due to food scarcity. The star’s natural talent for performing became her tool for raising local spirits and money for the Dutch resistance: dancing at private invitation-only events where funds were collected for those leading the underground fight against the Nazis.
The stardom that followed, which saw the actress move to Hollywood and enchant millions, concealed a life spent privately seeking stability and love. Her relationship with fashion was about companionship too, with Hubert de Givenchy fulfilling the role of friend and world-leading creative collaborator – something former Givenchy creative director Clare Waight Keller recounts in the film.
“Fashion came into my life when I had my very first couture dress made by Hubert de Givenchy. The beauty was extraordinary,” Hepburn once said. It was not friendship at first sight, however. When the French couturier first met the actress, he thought he would be meeting Katharine Hepburn and was nonplussed at their initial encounter.
Source: Harper's Bazaar
In 1954, when Audrey Hepburn wore multiple outfits created by the designer in her film Sabrina, their long-lasting collaboration began. Hepburn became the perfect representative of Givenchy's elegant and luxurious fashion style. Notable examples of their collaboration include a stunning double-breasted wool skirt suit in Sabrina, which beautifully portrayed the transformation of the film's protagonist, Sabrina Fairchild, into a sophisticated woman after her time in Paris. Another memorable ensemble was the white gown with a beaded bodice tied with a ribbon that Hepburn wore to the 1975 Academy Awards.
In honor of her, in honor of this fashionista goddess, we have created a recap of Audrey Hepburn's most outstanding style moments through the decades.
The hairband has reentered in recent years thanks to significant catwalk endorsements from designers including Prada, Fendi and Simone Rocha. Although Hepburn wore her fair share of tiaras, she also appreciated the comparatively simple pleasure of a hairband: whether a neatly bow-topped Alice band or an unfussy white length of fabric keeping her hair off her face while practising at the barre.
2. WAIST BELT
In Roman Holiday (1953), the film that catapulted Hepburn to stardom, the actor stars opposite Gregory Peck as a princess dispensing with royal duties to sneak around Rome. A fresh-faced Hepburn lights up the screen, all effortless elegance in a blouse and voluminous skirt cinched at the waist. The details make the look: the nonchalantly rolled-up sleeves, the jaunty striped neck scarf, ice cream in hand, and the backdrop of the Italian capital’s meandering backstreets.
Source: Hailey Feldman
Hepburn loved a headscarf on and off screen, often knotting a silk scarf over a beehive (her micro-fringe peeking out). Arguably her most glamorous style trick, the headscarf, makes cameos in Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and spy caper Charade (1963), accompanied by leather gloves and dark glasses.
Source: Deviant Art
4. BLACK POLO NECK
Suppose there’s a working-from-home look we still find ourselves regularly lifting from Hepburn’s on-screen style CV. In that case, it’s the dance scene in Funny Face (1957), where Hepburn (playing Jo Stockton) dances through Paris’s intellectual underbelly in a black polo neck, black trousers and black penny loafers. Naturally, Hepburn is sinuous as a cat and full of joy.
5. GINGHAM TROUSER
Another signature Hepburn look that continues to transcend time? The gingham trousers (she wore monochrome renditions, as well as shades of a picnic-blanket blue and pink) that accompanied her simple flats and clean-lined white tops. Hepburn was photographed in 1955 in this look by Norman Parkinson while in Italy shooting War and Peace (1956) and kept it on rotation over the years. Interestingly, she often appeared in a combination of gingham or pastel trousers with a plain blouse alongside animals: whether photographed with donkeys, dogs, or her beloved pet deer, Pippin.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
6. BALLET FLATS
No form of footwear is more readily associated with Hepburn than the ballet flat. It’s an unsurprising choice given Hepburn’s background in dance — the actress always maintained that her first career dream had been to be a ballet dancer. When Christie auctioned off a selection of her garments and belongings in 2017, her wardrobe revealed a rainbow of leather pumps in sky blue, emerald green and marigold, which she wore with everything from cropped trousers and swing skirts to boxy blazers.
Audrey Hepburn, a true fashion icon, left an indelible mark on the world of style with her unique fashion choices, collaborations with renowned designers, more with her forever friend Givenchy, unforgettable film roles, and her ability to make fashion effortlessly accessible and relatable. From her charming hairband to her perfectly cinched waist belt, from the elegant headscarf to the classic black polo neck, and not to forget her timeless gingham trousers and ballet flats, Hepburn's signature pieces still captivate our imagination today. Her influence on the fashion industry remains evergreen, shaping and inspiring countless trends over the decades. Audrey, thank you for your enduring legacy. We fashionistas owe you a debt of gratitude for your timeless style.